Sunday, February 15, 2015

Writers and Write Offs!

By Kristi Belcamino

I am not an accountant, merely someone who changed their major to journalism when the math became too difficult so view this post as an insight into how I'm bumbling through my taxes this year!

Keep in mind this is for my business as a traditionally published author. If you self-publish, a whole other world of deductions are available to you for all the expenses incurred getting your book published.

If you are a writer who considers writing your business, here are some things to keep in mind as we approach tax season.

The first thing I did when I wrote a book was set up a bank account strictly for my writing business. The account is used for writing expenses only. (Confession: I fouled it up off the get go. Because I'm a writer, my wardrobe consists of jeans. When I began appearing at author events, I wanted to look nicer and bought some dresses. I used my business account to pay for them, but have since learned that is *most likely* not a viable business expense.)

In addition, I also copy and print out receipts from items I buy online and save all other receipts in a big messy pile in a folder.

Here is a list of some of the items that writers can write off!

Keep in mind, you can't always write off 100 percent of the cost of the following, but most likely a percentage is fair. Many of these fall under the category of research. Although I wouldn't write off every single book you buy all year long. Or maybe you can, I just don't want to tempt fate.

*Pay-per-view movies
*Amazon Prime Membership
*Mp3 players
*Subscriptions to services such as Spotify
*Internet access
*Business cards
*Agent fees or commissions
*Tax preparation fees
*Professional fees (memberships in MWA, SINC, etc)

Did you go to Boucheron? Or any other writing conference?
Here is what you can write off:
*dry cleaning
*calls home
*meals (50 percent or  use the IRS meal allowance if you don't want to hassle with receipts. Here is how to determine the allowance for the area you are visiting. Click on per diem rates and enter your city.) I looked at rates for hotel and meals for my trip to the 2015 Bouchercon in Raleigh, N.C. The per diem for that trip will be $98 a night for lodging and $66 a day for meals.
Note: I'm just going to assume that alcohol is considered a food in this case since we are talking B'con.

Keep records of EVERYTHING. And notes. For instance, keep notes of your meals while you travel. Who did you eat with and what did you talk about. For instance, one day at the Long Beach Bouchercon, I had lunch with Joelle Charbonneau, Brad Parks, and Lou Berney and we talked about writing and writing retreats. 

Here is a great list from Jane Friedman's blog ( on what records to keep to prove that your writing is a business. She says keep these records for seven years.

"What records to keep:
  • receipts
  • royalty statements
  • sales slips for direct sales (the ones you make at conferences and readings)
  • appointment books
  • brochures, business cards and handouts from conferences
  • manuscript critiques
  • thank-you notes from libraries or schools after readings
  • fan email
  • contest entries and notifications
  • correspondence with freelancers, whether or not you hire them
  • letters from agents and publishers, including rejections
  • bank and credit card records
  • printouts of PayPal summaries
  • W-9s and 1099s
  • sales tax returns"
My more experienced writer friends, did I miss anything? Here are a few questions?
Have you found any way to get around the uniform expense and deduct duds?
What about getting our hair "done" out of town? Are you SOL?
Where do you plug in the registration fee for a writing conference? Is that just under commissions and fees? Professional services? Other expenses?


Scott D. Parker said...

Perfect timing for this post as I'm doing the non-sexy things to ready my first book including the banking. Now, with your post, I have a tentative list. Thanks.

Kristi said...

Awesome! I'm hoping some other writers chime in with their advice, as well.

Jon McGoran said...

Great post, timely and informative. In the past I've been a little shy about some of these, but it's good to see it in writing. Thanks!

Al Tucher said...

Clothes are not deductible if you could wear them on occasions that are not business-related, even (speaking hypothetically!) if you never wear dresses. Costumes are deductible, which would leave some wiggle room for attending Comicon.

Kristi said...

I know, Al! I guess the defining word is "costume" but I keep trying to figure out a loophole.
How about registration for writer's conferences?
I know it's deductible but under what?

Al Tucher said...

I just call it miscellaneous. Or rather, H&R Block does.

I can't resist mentioning an example that tax preparers use. Since Liberace wore his over-the-top outfits everywhere, he wasn't entitled to deduct them.

Kristi said...

Nice! Thanks for sharing, Al!